Friday 8th March marks International Women’s Day, so this week we are focusing on some of the women within SAM who work hard to make sure our company achieves its goals and objectives (we will focus on some of the men in November!). Each day leading up to International Women’s Day, we will share an interview with one of these women where they explain how they came to work within the manufacturing industry, what they enjoy about their job and the challenges they face, what development opportunities they have had and what advice they would give to other women keen to work within the industry.
To kick things off, we chatted to Lisa Lynch who is the Sales Office Manager at SAM. When Lisa isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and kids, shopping, going out for dinner and sipping on pink gin.
1. Tell us about your role within SAM
As the Sales Office Manager for SAM, I look after the internal sales function for both the Antrim and Donington sites and I also support the Regional Sales Managers with their daily duties when they are out on the road visiting customers. No two days are ever the same in my job and my tasks can include pricing new enquiries, introducing new customers to SAM, improving systems and processes to support the team, preparing sales reports or training team members.
2. How did you get into manufacturing and find your passion for the industry?
I have worked in the construction industry since I left university, where I completed a degree in Business and Marketing. My first role was Office Coordinator for a local contractor and I progressed to Office Supervisor. When the recession hit, I was made redundant from that role and found a job within the finance department for another local building contractor. I decided to move into manufacturing when I came across a vacancy for Finance Manager at SAM just over 10 years ago, and I have been here ever since. I successfully applied for the Sales Office Manager role whilst I was on maternity leave with my second child and took up the full-time position six months later when I returned to work. For me, coming to work is more than earning money and I wanted a job that made me happy, where I felt I was making a difference. That’s what makes me passionate about the industry and motivated to do the best I can.
3. What made you want to get into the profession?
I applied for the Finance Manager role within SAM because of the company rather than the industry and, although I have grown to love the manufacturing industry, it is still the company that has retained me. From the beginning, I have really respected the SAM culture and values, and the flexibility the company offers me as a full-time working mum of three children is invaluable. It makes me want to go the extra mile, for example, I worked closely with the Sales Director during my maternity leave to ensure my team was fully supported in my absence. I have many demands on my time, both personally and professionally, and sometimes this may require a lot of juggling. When I am with my kids, I am a mum and that time is precious, but my family also respects that outside of the 9 to 5, I may need to open the laptop to finish off some work.
4. What are your views on the manufacturing industry as it stands?
It has been really exciting to see new technologies breaking into the industry such as the introduction of 3D printing, which we use for our samples. It allows us to be more efficient and improve the service package we offer to our customers. New product development is always an exciting discussion and that’s what this industry is all about – making innovative ideas a reality and bringing them to the market. Digital marketing has really taken off too when historically the industry may have been a bit slower to embrace this type of marketing and engagement. It has created so many more job opportunities for more specialised marketing roles.
5. Why do you enjoy working in the industry?
It is such a fast-paced and exciting industry to be a part of. Things change very quickly as we are always thinking of the most efficient way to do something as part of our lean manufacturing training and it is great to see the improvements that come from that. I love that I get to speak to or meet such a variety of people every day or the buzz you get when we manage to pull some strings in the factory to help a customer out. I face plenty of challenges as working in a manufacturing plant things don’t always go to plan and you can end up fire-fighting to make sure our customers’ needs are met no matter what, but I do enjoy problem solving.
6. What career development opportunities have you had within the manufacturing industry?
As I mentioned before, I started my career as an Office Coordinator before being promoted to Office Supervisor managing a team of three. As Sales Office Manager, I lead a team of seven across two different sites (Antrim and Donington) and my role has completely changed. In terms of training, I have completed my yellow belt lean manufacturing training with SAM and I have attended several Invest NI courses on export sales. I also completed coaching and mentoring training and I have spent time with other local manufacturers to see if there are any areas within our business functions that could be improved. I get to travel across the UK and Ireland on joint visits with the Regional Sales Managers to learn more about our key partners and their specific needs, and I have visited our customer manufacturing facilities to learn how they use our material. The opportunities are endless within manufacturing if you have the drive and enthusiasm to develop.
7. What advice do you have for other women keen to get into the manufacturing industry?
Do it! There is so much room to grow and advance your career within the industry. I don’t believe gender has ever affected my career progression and my voice has always been heard as an equal. I believe if you are good at your job, then you will do well, whether you are male or female.
8. What exciting developments have you seen in the industry since you started?
I started working in SAM at the beginning of the recession and I have witnessed our company, and the industry, face many challenges because of the unstable economic climate. The work dried up, there were redundancies across the industry and some companies went into administration and closed. Seeing SAM face those challenges head on and retain our industry status and customer base has been both exciting and emotional – we have tackled the lows and celebrated the highs together. When we came out of the recession, it was great to be involved with new product development and witness the launch of our value-added products (SAM Zero and SAM Trimax) into the market.
9. What would you say to people who think the manufacturing industry works only for men?
It isn’t as male dominated as you may think. Yes, there are more men working in the industry, but there are also a lot of successful women in a variety of roles.
10. When you are hiring, what do you look for in candidates? What makes someone a great fit at SAM?
I look for people with initiative, drive, determination, loyalty and team spirit. It may sound cheesy, but we really do have a family here at SAM (we spend more time with them than we do our actual families!) and a great fit here is someone who wants to be part of the family and wants to invest their time getting to know their team members – someone who is willing to put the hard work in and go the extra mile.